The HPV vaccine is pretty scary stuff. For starters, you probably heard from your aunt that this lady told Michele Bachman that it totally made her daughter "mentally retarded." And even if those who get the shots don't end up like that poor girl no one was ever able to locate, the vaccine is rumored to transform girls into little harlots. After all, everyone knows the only thing keeping 12-year-old from having sex is their deep-seated fear of cervical cancer.
According to a new study, this theory may not be entirely accurate, or in other words, it's a total crock. After CDC research indicated that less than half of all girls are getting their recommended HPV shots, the agency set out to study what appears to be one of the biggest roadblocks to getting them vaccinated: Parental fear that protecting girls against a disease most middle schoolers never think about will encourage them to have sex. The New York Times reports that a new CDC study found young women who've had the vaccine are no more likely to be sexually active or have more partners than unvaccinated girls.
The study looked at data for more than 1,200 women between the ages of 15 and 24. There was no information on how old the young women were when they had the shot, so researchers couldn't determine if they were already sexually active when they were vaccinated. However, there was no indication that the shot increased risky sexual behavior. If anything, those who have been vaccinated might be more responsible when it comes to sex. Researchers found vaccinated 15 to 19-year-olds were more likely to report using a condom during recent sexual encounters. (The study provides no explanation for this, but it seems likely that girls who get the vaccination also have more access to information on sexual health.)
Lead author Dr. Nicole C. Liddon concluded that while more research is needed to definively prove that the vaccine isn't what's making girls suddenly interested in sex during their teen years, the study, "should to some degree assuage any concerns that HPV vaccination would lead to increased sexual activity." It definitely should make parents stop equating getting their daughters vaccinated with giving them a license to fornicate. Unfortunately, facts rarely trump fears when we're talking about teen girls and sex.
Patterns: HPV Vaccine Is Not Linked To Promiscuity [NYT]
HPV Vaccine Does Not Alter Sexual Behavior [Medical News Today]
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